December 17, 2016

Federal highway agency approves north Rodanthe bridge

By IRENE NOLAN

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a Record of Decision on the proposed "jug handle" bridge in north Rodanthe that will bypass the frequently overwashed S-curves and Mirlo Beach area.

The decision was issued Thursday by the FHA and announced  yesterday by Gov. Pat McCrory's office.

The ROD is the final environmental document needed to proceed with the new 2.4-mile bridge that will jut out into the sound from the southern end of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and come ashore in north Rodanthe north of Island Convenience.

"I’m pleased that we are now able to move forward with construction of this critical highway connection that will provide a long-term solution for the residents and visitors of the Outer Banks,” McCrory said. “This new bridge will eliminate travel disruptions caused by beach erosion and storm breaches that have resulted in access issues at one of the most vulnerable sections of N.C. 12 for years."

The north Rodanthe Bridge is the third and final segment of the Bonner Bridge replacement project, which also including replacing the aging bridge itself and building a new temporary bridge at Pea Island Inlet.  Both of those projects are underway.
 
The Record of Decision document identifies the Bridge on New Location (2014B alignment) as the alternative NCDOT will build. This alternative was presented as the preferred alternative in the May 2016 Revised Environmental Assessment and at public hearings in June. Responses to public and resource agency comments received at and following the public hearings are included in the Record of Decision.
 
According to the ROD, this design minimizes impacts to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, the ocean shoreline and the community of Rodanthe, while maintaining safe and reliable access for area residents and visitors.
 
The project will be built using the design-build method, which allows the department to contract a team that consists of both designers and a contractor to design and construct the project. Projects can be let sooner and completed faster using this approach.

Based on the severity of conditions in the area, the agency has been working through the design-build selection process and has narrowed down the prospective design-build teams for the project. NCDOT anticipates opening bids in about a week.
 
Traffic will be maintained on Highway 12, which is a vital link for this region, while the new bridge is being built. Once construction is complete, the existing roadway in the refuge would be removed and the land will be returned to the refuge. In Rodanthe, the existing Highway 12 roadway will remain to provide access to private properties.

Also, yesterday, Save our Sound OBX, a group that opposes the "jug handle" alternative, issued a statement.

“Today’s Federal Highway Administration approval of the northern Rodanthe bridge is of no surprise to us,” said Mark Haines, Save Our Sound OBX president. "We anticipated this decision in spite of our strong legal arguments against this expensive and unnecessary 2.4 mile long bridge in Pamlico Sound. Our legal team will be reviewing the Record of Decision document and issuing a prompt and formal response.”



            
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